It’s common knowledge that eating clean can be expensive, particularly on a bulk. Eating the right foods in order to hit your macros, taking a few supplements and paying for you gym membership each month all add up. But a bodybuilder’s meal plan doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
I’ve rounded up 20 foods that offer the highest amount of protein per £ available from a combination of supermarkets and online stores.
If you want some info on each of the foods, and the cheapest place to buy them, scroll down for the breakdown. Otherwise, here’s the list:
|1||Peanuts||109g Protein per £1|
|2||Peanut Butter||81g Protein per £1|
|3||Poached Eggs||77g Protein per £1|
|4||Baked Beans||71g Protein per £1|
|5||Tuna in Brine||66g Protein per £1|
|6||Pork Sausages||57g Protein per £1|
|7||Red Lentils||52g Protein per £1|
|8||Beef Mince||51g Protein per £1|
|9||Cheddar Cheese||43g Protein per £1|
|10||Greek Yoghurt||41g Protein per £1|
|11||Chicken Breast||40g Protein per £1|
|12||Chickpeas||39g Protein per £1|
|13||Soy Protein Isolate||38g Protein per £1|
|14||Cottage Cheese||36g Protein per £1|
|15||Edam Cheese||35g Protein per £1|
|16||Semi-skimmed Milk||34g Protein per £1|
|17||Turkey Breast||33g Protein per £1|
|18||Quorn Mince||26g Protein per £1|
|19||Whey Protein||23g Protein per £1|
|20||Pork Loin Steak||23g Protein per £1|
For obvious reasons, the figures above are susceptible to change and are largely based upon particular brands and their relative prices (at the time of writing), which may also fluctuate. You may actually be able to find better deals by taking advantage of sales and voucher codes, in which case you should be able to get even more bang for your buck.
Sources & Alternatives
Below I’ve listed some more details, such as the source of each aforementioned food and an alternative where I found necessary.
Protein per £1: 109g
Source: Asda JUST ESSENTIALS Salted Peanuts
Notes: Again, moderation is key. Salted peanuts happen to be the cheapest of the bunch – it’s not rocket science to figure these contain a high amount of salt. High sodium intake can cause high blood pressure, among other health problems. But as a snack or treat, these are ideal.
Although not on this list, cashews and walnuts are worth a mention.
The cheapest source of nuts I’ve found is actually Aldi, however I haven’t Aldi’s on this list because they don’t have their prices online and I’m unsure if their prices are consistent nationwide. So if you have an Aldi nearby, check them out. The walnuts and cashews I get from there are a lot cheaper than both Tesco and online wholesalers.
2. Peanut Butter
Protein per £1: 81g
Source: Tesco Everyday Value Crunchy Peanut Butter
Notes: Admittedly Tesco Everyday Value Peanut Butter is probably not the best option in terms of health if consumed excessively (then again, what is?) But, after all, this is about the cheapest high protein foods, and with 81g of protein per £1, it certainly is cheap.
If you’re looking for a higher quality, natural alternative I can recommend Myprotein’s All-Natural Peanut Butter. It’s a fair bit pricier, providing 38g of protein per £1, but the quality difference is noticeable. Myprotein are frequently holding sales and pretty much always have some decent active discount codes, so it’s likely you’ll be able to get a better deal.
3. Poached Eggs
Protein per £1: 77g
Source: Asda JUST ESSENTIALS Eggs
Notes: Scrambled eggs will offer the same number, but poached eggs are my preference because of the oil (and butter) required to make scrambled or fried eggs not stick to the pan and/or actually taste good. Failing that, raw eggs.
I’m sure prices will be similar from most supermarkets, but in this case Asda seemed to be the cheapest. Next in line would be Tesco Everyday Value Eggs, offering 68g protein per £1.
If you can afford an extra couple of pence per egg, you should opt for free range eggs.
4. Baked Beans
Protein per £1: 71g
Source: Stockwell & Co Baked Beans (Tesco)
Notes: Baked beans are cheap and a superb source of protein, fibre, calcium and iron. Unless flatulence is a big problem for you, then there’s no reason baked beans can’t be a staple in your diet.
If you don’t eat much bread and find baked beans in tomato sauce too boring to consume without toast, you could always opt for Baked Beans and Pork Sausages instead; they offer a very close 64g protein per £1.
5. Tuna in Brine
Protein per £1: 66g
Source: Stockwell & Co Tuna Chunks In Brine (Tesco)
Notes: Hopefully you have some sort of fish in your diet. It turns out that tuna chunks are the cheapest option here. According to Tesco, their own brand of tinned tuna is dolphin friendly.
Tins of sardines and mackerel come close in terms of value for protein, so consider them if you want some variety.
If you’re after something higher quality than tuna from a tin, consider Tuna Fillets from Musclefood.
6. Pork Sausages
Protein per £1: 57g
Source: Woodside Farms Pork Sausages (Tesco)
Notes: Pork sausages are surprisingly a very cheap source of protein. Pair them with some poached eggs and beans and you have yourself a cheap, protein-rich breakfast! I’m not going to recommended eating a full English breakfast every day of the week; too much saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol.
Both Tesco’s and Asda’s own brand of pork sausages offer similar value to those above.
If you’re not keen on pork, then an alternative is Musclefood’s Chicken Breast Sausages. You get a lot less protein for your money – 29g protein per £1 – but they do have less than five times the saturated fat, twice the protein and a lot less calories than the pork sausages. There are also a number of Musclefood discount codes available, so this may actually be a healthier and more cost effective option.
7. Red Lentils
Protein per £1: 52g
Source: Natco Red Lentils (Tesco)
Notes: Another vegetarian-friendly option. Both Tesco’s and Asda’s own brand are similar in value, so feel free to opt for them if this particular brand isn’t available.
Lentils are ideal for making healthy curries. An alternative to lentils are Chickpeas (also on this list).
8. Beef Mince
Protein per £1: 51g
Source: Tesco Beef Mince 20% Fat
Notes: Beef mince is another versatile food that can be eaten as is or used to create burgers, meat balls, Shepard’s Pie and a whole host of tasty dishes.
Note that, although the cheapest beef mince available, this particular mince is 20% fat (which may or may not suit your diet requirements). For a lot of people this may be a bad thing, so consider a less-fatty beef mince, such as Musclefood’s Beef Steak Mince. It’s somewhat pricier, but you’ll get the same amount of protein for a quarter of the fat and half the calories.
Also consider the vegetarian alternative, Quorn Mince (further down this list).
9. Cheddar Cheese
Protein per £1: 43g
Source: Creamfields Mild Cheddar (Tesco)
Notes: Cheddar makes for a great source of cheap protein. That includes melted cheese, too, if ham and cheese toasties are your thing!
Cheddar cheese contains a huge amount of saturated fat, which can be detrimental to your health – so consume in moderation.
If you don’t fancy carrying a block of cheese around with you, consider a more snack-friendly alternative, like Cheese Strings. They make pretty convenient snacks if your protein intake is lacking.
10. Greek Yoghurt
Protein per £1: 41g
Source: Tesco 0% Fat Greek Style Yogurt
Notes: Greek Yoghurt can be used in a number of ways, so there’s no reason you can’t include this in your diet. I personally have it with walnuts and honey for breakfast occasionally, and wife uses it to make curries; it’s a fairly versatile food.
Also consider Asda Greek Style Fat Free Yogurt with Honey which makes for a great snack or desert if you don’t fancy eating plain unsweetened Greek Yoghurt by itself.
It’s worth noting that, typically, the fat-free variations of Greek Yoghurt tend to contain significantly more protein than their regular counterparts. For example, the Asda Greek Style Fat Free Yogurt contains 6.4g of protein per 100g, compared to just 3.6g in the regular (higher fat content) version.
11. Chicken Breast
Protein per £1: 40g
Notes: A list about high protein foods – surely chicken had to be on here somewhere. Are you surprised it’s so low on the list? The fact is, chicken isn’t cheap. Over the years, I’ve tried a number of sources of chicken breasts, from discounted stock at Tesco, to online wholesalers, butchers and markets. When you’re eating two or three chicken breasts a day, regardless of your source, it adds up to a lot of money.
Nevertheless, the currently lowest price chicken breasts (of decent quality) I can find are from Musclefood. Also take into consideration that the figure of 44g protein per £ is based upon an order of 5 kg. Musclefood reward you for ordering in bulk by discounting your order, so it’s possible to get even better value if ordering 10kg, 20kg or more at a time. Not to mention, there are also a number of discount codes available that could provide further savings.
Protein per £1: 39g
Source: KTC Chick Peas in Salted Water (Asda)
Notes: Similar to lentils, just not as much protein per £. You can use chickpeas to create nice, thick curries.
An alternative, and perhaps more appropriate as a snack, is houmous, which is simply crushed chickpeas sesame seeds, lemon juice, garlic and sometimes another ingredient or two for flavouring. Doesn’t quite offer the same value for money in terms of protein as chickpeas alone, but houmous is one tasty snack and makes for a great dip for carrots and cucumber (or pitta bread, if your diet permits) Tesco Reduced Fat Houmous comes in at 19g protein per £1.
13. Soy Protein Isolate
Protein per £1: 38g
Source: Myprotein Soy Protein Isolate
Notes: A great alternative to whey protein, soy protein isolate is made from defatted soy beans and therefore free of lactose. If you’re on a cut, this protein supplement is your best friend, since it practically contains zero fat and carbs. A shake containing a scoop of soy protein isolate will help you hit your protein macros each day while allowing you to fulfill your carbs and fats with nutrient rich foods.
At the time of writing, The Protein Works are offering 40% off their Soy Protein 90, making it the cheapest source of protein on this list with a whopping 150g protein per £1. For now, I’ve opted to include the Myprotein variant on the list since I have no idea how long this discount will last and, without it, Myprotein is the cheaper option.
14. Cottage Cheese
Protein per £1: 36g
Source: Creamfields Low Fat Cottage Cheese
Notes: A classic pre-bedtime snack for bodybuilders is cottage cheese and peanut butter. It sounds awful and may get you some funny looks from your family, but they actually taste good together and, better yet, both cottage cheese and peanut butter contain slow releasing casein protein, making them them perfect to consume before bed.
Although a fair bit pricier, and therefore less protein per £, consider Tesco Cottage Cheese with Pineapple as an alternative; It’s far tastier to eat alone than plain cottage cheese.
15. Edam Cheese
Protein per £1: 35g
Source: Emporium 16 Dutch Edam Cheese (ALDI)
Notes: An alternative to cheddar. I’ve heard that Edam Cheese Souffle with bacon is delicious.
The Edam I’ve sourced here from ALDI is the cheapest I could find. Can’t comment on quality, though. I’d expect you get what you pay for, so may be worth opting for Tesco’s or Asda’s own brands which are, not quite as good as, but similar in terms of protein per £.
16. Semi-skimmed Milk
Protein per £1: 34g
Source: Asda Fresh Milk Semi Skimmed
Notes: You might have heard of GOMAD (Gallon Of Milk a Day). Now, although I don’t advise anyone to drink a gallon of milk a day (that’s a lot of dairy), it’s no surprise that it’s the go-to advice for beginners looking to put on size. It’s cheap, it’s full of protein, and easy to consume a lot of.
Liquid calories are good for anyone on a bulk whose appetite doesn’t quite allow them to hit their macros from whole foods alone. Just keep it in moderation, especially if you’re consuming other dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt (which are also on this list!) since Lactose intolerance is fairly common.
17. Turkey Breast
Protein per £1: 33g
Notes: These are the cheapest turkey breasts I could find and are actually some of the better ones I’ve had. Turkey is a great choice, with one serving of Musclefood’s Lean Turkey Breast Steaks giving 42g protein, 1g fat and practically no carbs. So, although these aren’t the cheapest on the list, they are absolutely ideal when eating clean so I’d recommend adding them to your shopping list.
18. Quorn Mince
Protein per £1: 26g
Source: Quorn Mince (Asda)
Notes: The final item on the list is vegetarian-friendly quorn mince. I didn’t try this myself until recently, and I was pleasantly surprised with both the taste and nutritional content.
Alternatives to mince are Quorn Sausages and Quorn Peppered Steaks. You won’t get quite as much protein for your money as the mince (16g per £1), but they’re both tasty alternatives and certainly a great choice for vegetarians.
19. Whey Protein
Protein per £1: 23g
Source: Myprotein Impact Whey Protein
Notes: Probably the world’s most popular supplement, so it should be no surprise that it’s on this list – although, not quite a food as such.. but it’s cheap! And you can make porridge and flapjacks with it.
I’m sure most brands of whey protein will offer a decent protein per £ ratio, perhaps with the exception of more premium brands. I’m looking at you, Optimum Nutrition. But, damn, does their chocolate whey taste good.
An alternative would be The Protein Works’ Whey Protein 80, offering 87g protein per £1. I personally haven’t tried this one, but it’s the cheapest alternative I could find from a reputable brand, and that’s without any offers or discount codes applied.
20. Pork Loin Steak
Protein per £1: 23g
Notes: If you want a break from chicken as your primary source of meat protein, then pork loin steaks may be worth considering.
An alternative, if you’re not a pork-eater, are Tesco Beef Minute Steaks. You’ll get slightly less protein for your money, but more protein per calorie.
Living on Peanut Butter and Semi-skimmed milk probably isn’t the greatest of ideas if you care about your health. There’s a lot of cheap, processed and high in saturated fat foods on this list.
Nevertheless, these are the cheapest sources of protein available in the UK, so if you’re struggling to hit your protein macros on a budget, then definitely consider adding some of these to your shopping list.